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What Does Green Actually Mean & What Are the Certifications All About?

Building a house is an exciting and emotional process – as well as one of the biggest decisions in a family’s life. The decisions to be made require both expertise and foresight – something a reputable and industry-leading builder will have no problem providing clients through the building process. The problem lies in builders who cloud the green, sustainable building industry with “greenwashing” a term used to describe when a company, government, or other group promotes green-based environmental issues but operates in an opposite and often more endangering way. Today’s consumers are more aware of sustainable green practices than ever before, but how can people looking to build or buy a “green” house be assured they get what they pay for?

What's Green and What's Not

Green is sustainable - meaning built with the practices and materials that will last and last. It also means comfort - living in spaces that offer more than visual appeal or efficient standards. Green doesn't mean sacrificing comfort just to be efficient. You don't have to give up one for the sake of the other. Green homes are different than a little smart car, for example. Sure, you might be saving on gas and emissions, but how comfortable are you behind the wheel? It's a practice of inferiority. In that scenario, you have to choose cause over comfort. That might be acceptable for you and your family if you're not big commuters or travelers. But can you apply that same mentality to your home? You shouldn't have to, and you won't have to at BrightLeaf. We have a phrase we use with our clients - in a BrightLeaf home, you can have hot showers and cold beer all while substantially decreasing your carbon footprint. That's green.

Today, the claims about energy efficiency in a new home can be overwhelming. Since many energy efficient components integrated into a high-performance home are hidden in or behind the walls, consumers have to rely on the builder or realtor to honestly represent the energy efficiency claims for that home (particularly in the absence of a third party certification). That’s the indicator. Is the house you’re about to build or move into certified? Green certifications matter – here’s why.
 

What Green Certifications Mean to Homeowners

Green building refers to the improvements in how residential and commercial buildings use energy, water, and materials to reduce the impact those components have on health and the environment. That’s an awfully vague statement – which is why greenwashing has crept into the picture. Sure, a new or retro’d home can boast its green building status because of the way energy or resources were used in building. But, it’s not uncommon for that same home to need two furnaces to maintain heat through the winters. Is that green? No, it’s not.

Green certifications are just that – certified. In order for a home to be stamped with any certifications, they have to meet rigorous standards and requirements. Rest assured green certifications have to be earned and validated, and at BrightLeaf, we're proud to stamp these onto your forever home. 
 

LEED 

Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) is an internationally-recognized green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED homes are built to be healthy by providing clean indoor air, utilizing safe building materials, using less energy and water, and reducing utility bills. There are different certification levels including basic, silver, gold, and platinum. The higher the level, the "greener" the home.

Energy Star 

The little blue label is more than a sticker, it’s a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voluntary program that helps businesses and families save money while protecting the environment through superior energy efficiency. Behind each Energy Star label is a product, building, or home that’s independently certified to use less energy and reduce emissions that affect climate change. For 25 years, Energy Star has helped save $362 billion on utility bills while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2.4 billion metric tons.

For More Information On Green Application in Homebuilding Check Out Our Newsfeed 

WaterSense 

If Energy Star is the EPA’s answer to energy reduction, WaterSense is the agency’s solution to water conservation. It too is a voluntary partnership program sponsored by the EPA and is both a label for water-efficient products as well as a consumer resource. The WaterSense certification means at least a 20 percent reduction in water use, conserves energy, and performs better than standard products.

Zero Energy Ready 

Dubbed the “home of the future,” a Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Ready Home is a high-performance home that’s up to 50 percent more energy-efficient than other homes. For nearly 10 years, the Zero Energy Ready Home program has represented a whole new level of home performance through vigorous requirements to ensure outstanding levels of energy savings, comfort, health, and durability. Zero Energy Ready Homes are engineered to push a zero net energy use with the help of renewable energy and reduced energy demand. What does that mean to homeowners? By adding enough solar or renewable energy to your home, you won't need additional energy from the grid.

 

Decrease Your Carbon Footprint

May is the perfect month to talk about green efficiencies and the environment (though we believe each month is just as perfect). A recent Gallup poll showed public concern over global warming was at a thirty-year high. Many respondents indicated they were overwhelmed and confused about how they could assist in change. Energy from residential and commercial buildings makes up 40 percent of total energy usage, contributing major greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. So what can you do to combat the issue? You can drastically reduce your own carbon footprint with a single consumer decision - and that's to build or buy a green certified home. Ask BrightLeaf about our process. 

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